Road to the Dome: LHSAA Class 1A Quarterfinals Preview
by Jace LeJeune and Lee Brecheen
24 teams are down and there are 8 more teams left to go. All 8 teams have their own strengths and weaknesses, but they all have one goal in mind. That is to be one of nine teams in the end holding a state championship trophy in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with the Queen smash hit “We Are the Champions” playing in the background. For Louisiana football fans, this is the most wonderful time of the year. It is our version of “March Madness”. This year, we got you covered as for the next couple of weeks, we will go through all of the matchups from 1A all the way to 5A each and every week leading up to the All-State Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic from December 7th-9th. Louisiana Football Magazine’s expert Lee Brecheen has seen all of these teams play and gives his insight on which teams will survive and continue their march to the Superdome. Today, we preview the Class 1A public division quarterfinal playoff matchups.
#1 West St. John Rams (9-2) vs. #8 Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers (9-3)
Game Preview: The West St. John Rams are pretty much the favorite to win the 1A state championship this year. Led by Head Coach Brandon Walters, the Rams won the District 8-1A championship with a 9-2 overall record and undefeated record in District play. The team’s only losses came against teams that play in higher classifications such as St. James, and Plaquemine. The Rams don’t have a lot of weaknesses as they have a dynamic quarterback in D’andre Gaudia, who has thrown for 2,200 yards and 23 touchdowns, a great rushing attack led by Kylan Duhe, who has ran for over 1,600 yards this season, great skill players such as WR Aason Moll, WR Alyjah Borne, a big, physical offensive line led by Calieb Batiste, and a dominant defense that is led by LB/DE Covan Barnes, DT Horace Lewis, and LB Kelon Gardner. This is a team that has all the tools to get to the Superdome. The Rams showed that the team was not rusty after having a bye in their second round matchup against the East Iberville Tigers led by Ron LeJeune. The East Iberville Tigers were no match for the West St. John Rams as the Rams dominated the football game advancing to the second round with a 44-2 victory. It was definitely a breakout season for the Tigers as the team won more games this season than the team did in the previous four seasons combined, and the team also won their first playoff victory in program history the week before. For the West St. John Rams, they will have to play the Tigers again. This time, they will face the #8 seed Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers at their home field this Friday. The Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers, under Terrance Blankenship had a great regular season winning seven games. The team always has great skill position players and the same goes for this season with guys such as WR Tayvionne Tate, WR Diondre Hall, RB Kameron Booker, who has ran for over 1,175 yards and accounted for 16 touchdowns WR Trinavous Belton, and QB Reggie Shallowhorn, who has accounted for over 30 touchdowns this season either running or passing. They also have a big line as well for Class 1A with guys like DT Kelton Moss commanding the interior with his 6-2, 280 pound frame. The Tigers are coming off two dominant playoff wins against Plain Dealing with a 44-0 shutout and a dominant second round 48-8 win over the Elton Indians. Both programs are known for making state championship runs. The Rams have won three state championships and have made plenty of state championship appearances while the Jonesboro-Hodge Tigers have won five state championships, but it has been a long drought as the last time Jonesboro-Hodge has won a state championship was 1989.
Lee’s Take: “This is going to be a tougher game for West St. John just because Jonesboro-Hodge has a lot more talent. However, the only way that I see West St. John losing this football game is if they are flat. I don’t see the Rams losing this football game.”
#2 Oak Grove Tigers (11-1) vs. #7 Basile Bearcats (9-3)
Game Preview: The Oak Grove Tigers, under Ryan Gregory, haven’t been to the Superdome since 2004, but this might be their year that they go back as they have had a total dominant season going 9-1 and winning a very tough district in 2-1A. The Tigers won the district championship by shutting down one of the best offenses around in Cedar Creek 42-0. The Tigers’ strength is their running game with a young athletic sophomore quarterback in Kameron Holloway, two runners that complement each other in RB Donald Gray and FB Wyatt Rawls, and a very experienced offensive line led by John Bolding. Their defense has also been very dominant as well. The Tigers had a great start to the postseason against the Northwood Lena Gators with a 48-0 shutout victory thanks to a stiffening defense and the high powered option attack that has the threat to pass the ball when they need to. In the second round of the playoffs, the Tigers handled the Lincoln Prep Panthers 48-20. The Tigers have scored over 40 points in their first two games, but they are going to have to do that again in order to defeat the Basile Bearcats, who have been on a tear winning their last eight games after starting the season at 1-3. It definitely has been a huge turnaround for Kevin Bertrand who deserves a lot of credit for building the Basile football program after only three wins last season. Players like QB Dawson Ashford, RB/LB Andre Reed, WR Jaylen Thomas, RB/LB Logan David, and OL/DL Cameron Berzas will be guys that will lead this team. Basile had a successful game running the football in their first playoff game against Slaughter Community Charter as running backs Reed, David, and Isaiah Caesar combined to run for over 325 rushing yards. That running back trio as well as a much improved defense have been the major catalysts not only for their last seven regular season games and the playoff victory over Slaughter Community Charter, but also in the team’s second round playoff victory when the team defeated the Montgomery Tigers 14-8. It was much more of the defense in the second round matchup as even though the running game was contained well by the Tigers, it was the Bearcat defense that really won the game only giving up 124 total yards of offense. The Bearcats look to pull off a huge upset against the Oak Grove Tigers who have been dominant all season long.
Lee’s Take: “Basile has come a long way, but I think Oak Grove is too talented for the Bearcats to handle. However, Basile has really shocked me because they have beaten some teams that I thought they would lose to. This could be an upset, but I am going to go with Oak Grove winning in a tight game.”
#3 Kentwood Kangaroos (11-1) vs. #6 Haynesville Golden Tornadoes (10-2)
Game Preview: This is arguably the best matchup in the 1A bracket as two of Class 1A’s powerhouse football programs face off in the Kentwood Kangaroos and the Haynesville Golden Tornadoes. The Kentwood Kangaroos, under Jonathan Foster, won arguably the toughest district in all of 1A with such other teams like Southern Lab and Ascension Catholic also in that district. The Kangaroos won nine games in the regular season and once again, will be a state championship contender due to the many skill guys that the offense has. Playmakers such as QB Jamarquea Diamond, RB Larry Carter, WR Larenz Morris, and WR Trey Palmer, who has already been offered by LSU as a junior, can score on anybody when they are out in open space. The Kangaroos also have some size in the trenches with OT Eric Dunn, who is 6-6, 250, and OG Justice Ulschak, who is also over 250 pounds. The Kangaroos had no problems in their first round matchup against the Tensas Panthers rolling to a 37-0 victory. It was more of the same for the Kentwood Kangaroos as they rolled against the Merryville Panthers 40-14, but this time with Larenz Morris at quarterback. The Haynesville Golden Tornadoes are one of the most historic football programs in the state and have won many state championships in the past. In fact, they are second to only John Curtis High School in state championship victories with 17. The Golden Tornadoes, under David Franklin, are making a run at their 18th state championship this season. They entered the playoffs with an 8-2 record and a 1-1A district championship. The Golden Tornadoes are a highly motivated team this season after losing to the Logansport Tigers in the Class 1A state championship last season 34-28. The Tornadoes are led by playmaker Kavacion Webster, who may only be 5-6, 160, but he is very exciting when he has the football in his hands. The Tornadoes also have a great defense, which is led by Louisiana Monroe commit Jalan Harris, who has a very high motor and can clinch football games when rushing the quarterback late in football games. In the first round of the playoffs, the Golden Tornadoes dominated Grand Lake 33-3 in their opening game. They beat the Oberlin Tigers in the second round of the playoffs in very similar fashion as the first game with the Golden Tornadoes winning 33-8 with Webster accounting for three touchdowns in the win. This sets up a matchup between two heavyweights. The last time both teams faced each other, it was in the Superdome for the 2015 Class 1A state championship game, which was dominated by Kentwood 40-7. It should be a great game and an intriguing matchup between programs of different styles as Haynesville wants to run the option and control the clock while the Kangaroos like to give their great athletes the ball in open space and score quickly. It should be a great game and the winner will be looking good in terms of making the Superdome once again.
Lee’s Take: “I think Coach Franklin is going to give Kentwood a good football game. I think Haynesville is very well coached. I do not think that Haynesville is as good as they were in the last three years, but it is still Haynesville at the end of the day. Kentwood has too much speed for Haynesville and I would be shocked if Kentwood does not win the football game. It should still be a very close football game as I see the Kangaroos winning by either a touchdown or by ten points.”
#4 Varnado Wildcats (9-3) vs. #5 Logansport Tigers (12-0)
Game Preview: The Varnado Wildcats, under Scott Shafett, had a good regular season finishing second in district 8-1A behind the West St. John Rams. The Wildcats can put up plenty of points as they only failed to score less than 30 points only twice all season. The explosive and experienced Wildcat offensive attack is led by WR Armontee Kemp, who is a four year starter and can run with the best of them, FB Jadarrell Magee, who is as tough as they come and will clear the path for speedy RB Desmond Harry, and QB James Williams, who is another four year starter. In Varnado’s first playoff game against the Ringgold Redskins, the Wildcats scored seven offensive touchdowns and the defense pitched a shutout dominating the football game with a 54-0 victory. In Varnado’s second round matchup, they dominated the Arcadia Hornets 58-18. The Logansport Tigers are looking to defend their 1A state championship a year ago and continue a winning streak that is currently at 26 straight wins after posting back to back undefeated regular seasons. Kevin Magee has built a dominant program in only his fourth year as the team’s head coach and has taken this team to state championship prowess just when he was playing quarterback for the Tigers’ state championship team in 1995. The Tigers are led by veteran QB Dalton Shaw, who is the all time leading passer in program history passing his head coach, and one of the most underrated big time recruits in the entire state in ATH John Stephens Jr., who is the son of the late John Stephens Sr., who played for the New England Patriots. Stephens is a TCU commit and can play just about any position for the Tigers including WR, LB, and even DE. He could be a difference maker in this bracket. The Tigers did not need too much help from Stephens even though they got in anyway in their first two playoff matchups. In the Tigers’ first two playoff games, they scored 52 and 48 points respectively against North Central and Homer while the defense shut out both teams to advance to the Class 1A quarterfinals. The Tigers will get their toughest challenge this Friday against a very athletic Varnado team that has put up over 50 points in both of their matchups. This has the makings of a very high scoring game between two of 1A’s most explosive offenses.
Lee’s Take: “Varnado is going to give Logansport a good game. They got some good players. A lot of people, outside of St. Tammany Parish, don’t realize how good of a program Varnado really is. Logansport’s QB Dalton Shaw is back and John Stephens will be way too much for the Wildcats to handle as well as the rest of the Logansport football team.”
Jace’s Final Thoughts: It is not surprising to me that the top eight seeds have moved on to the quarterfinals of the Class 1A bracket. There have been a lot of blowouts through the first two rounds and now with some of the top Class 1A programs squaring off, there should actually be some close football games this week. Games like Varnado-Logansport and Kentwood-Haynesville will go a long way in determining who will be a front runner to get to the Dome. With that being said, my picks to win this week are West St. John, Oak Grove, Kentwood, and Logansport. I believe these are the best four teams in 1A and they should all move on to make the semi-finals, but you never know what could happen as the other teams can pull the upsets. We will just have to wait and find out as the Road to the Dome continues this Friday!
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